visible from space | Paul Catanese

visible from space is a thought experiment. It is an open series that exists in multiple materials: video, prints, installation, projection, handmade paper, artist’s books, found objects, notes, interviews, essays and site-specific events

The desert is a site of remote testing where paraconsistent logics are first considered feasible. Mistakenly construed as the opposite of the ocean, the desert teems with depth—it is also its own mirror.

I am conducting a thought experiment about the phrase visible from space, which erupted from a fanciful supposition to create drawings on the Earth so large they would be visible from the moon. For such a feat, the stroke width of the line would need to be close to 60 miles wide in order for barely a hairline to be visible from that distance. It is charming to think that the Great Wall of China is visible from space—but this is merely a popular mythology. It is difficult to resolve an image of the Great Wall even from the International Space Station with the naked eye (which orbits about 250 miles above the Earth), let alone from outer space or nearby celestial bodies. Of course, with military and even civilian imaging technologies, much greater resolution can be achieved as evidenced by what are now commonplace tools such as Google Earth.

Simultaneously, I have been thinking about L’Arbre du Ténéré, a lone tree that lived in the Saharan desert in Niger, the last of a stand of ancient acacias desperately isolated in an encroaching hostile landscape. The ancient tree was well-known as a caravan-route marker and can be found as a single tree indicated on maps in the middle of the vast desert. Oddly, this lone and ancient tree, which shirked the reality of the desert, met with its end after a truck driver ran into it in 1973. That lone tree of the desert, an odd single blip on the map—much like our geosynchronous satellites—occupies less than a pixel’s resolution worth of expanse when viewed from a distance.

While it is significant that we are able to achieve these feats, modern satellite imaging and a proposal to create a drawing on the Earth so large it that could be seen from the moon are similar in the fact that both actions require a wealth of engineering and a lack of humility. Viewed in this light, the requirements for surrogate vision depend on how we define visible, and where we define space. As I contemplate these requirements, I am reminded of L’Arbre du Ténéré, whose monument—a large metal sculpture of a tree—is not even the corpse of a tree.

Chemical Desert, Olfactory Desert, Visionary Desert, Redacted Desert—distance and space are functions of speed and time.

Floating, the expanse of scrubland synchronizes into punctuated dun. Glowing salmon-flesh talc hovers, circumscribing both value and volume. Embellished with blankness, desert devils swirl their columns 70 miles into the sky while the disorganized, vulnerable, convenient desert is perceived from far away.

This project is rooted in deserts, where contradictions regarding the role of land proliferate; where divergent visions of sanctity and utility overlap and confound. I am captivated by how popular myths of a homogenous “desert” as blank canvas collide with competing narratives of test site, backdrop, cloak, archive and cathedral; how these visions intermingle and are inscribed on the land. These thought experiments are a point of departure for speculative practices meant to evoke the paradox of “desert” while celebrating its terrifying majesty.

Since its inception in 2010, visible from space has received support from a number of residency programs: the Central School Project in Bisbee, Arizona; the Goldwell Open Air Museum near Death Valley; and upcoming at the Playa Artist Residency at Summer Lake, Oregon. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Artworks from this project were first exhibited by the Leonardo Electronic Almanac to inaugurate their online exhibition platform. Since then, component artworks have been exhibited and screened at a wide range of festivals and venues including at the Claudia Cassidy Theatre at the Chicago Cultural Center; as part of the exURBAN Screens festival through the Frankston Art Centre in Melbourne; Kasa Galeri in Istanbul; Video Guerilla Festival in Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Rio de Janiero; Luminaria festival in San Antonio; Re-Imagining Paper and Fiber International Invitational in Hilo Hawaii; and the 2014 Festival Internacional de Linguagem Eletrônica (FILE). I will additionally be presenting this work at the 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art to be held in Dubai in November 2014, and I will be continuing development on the project during my Spring 2015 sabbatical.


Posted on by admin1963 Posted in Fall 2014, Practices

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